India strips four million people of citizenship in Assam

An Indian woman checks her name on the draft list of the National Register of Citizens in Chandamari village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam. (Reuters)
Updated 30 July 2018
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India strips four million people of citizenship in Assam

MUMBAI: India said on Monday it had excluded more than 4 million people from a draft list of citizens in the border state of Assam who could not produce valid documents, a move that has sparked fears about the future of thousands in the region.

Security has been tightened across the state, which borders Bangladesh, as thousands of Bengali-speaking Muslims worry about being sent to detention centers or deported, a Reuters witness said.

The tea-rich state of Assam has long been the center of social and communal tensions with locals campaigning against illegal immigrants, a fight that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government has championed.

In 1983, scores of people were chased down and killed by machete-armed mobs intent on hounding out Muslim immigrants.

The government said the draft was not meant to drive people out and those struck out of the list would have a chance to re-apply.

“Based on this draft, there is no question of anyone being taken to detention centers or foreigners’ tribunal,” Sailesh, India’s census commissioner who uses only one name, told reporters in Guwahati, the state’s main city.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled to India from Bangladesh during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in the early 1970s. Most of them settled in Assam, which has a near-270 km (165-mile) border with Bangladesh.

More than 30 million people had applied and 4,007,707 had been excluded from the list, Sailesh said.

To be recognized as Indian citizens, all residents of Assam had to produce documents proving that they or their families lived in the country before March 24, 1971.

Sailesh did not provide a breakup of people who had failed to make to the draft list.

Critics see the citizenship test as another measure supported by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aimed at minority Muslims. The BJP denies any bias but says it opposes a policy of appeasement of any community.

Authorities in the state have previously said the citizenship test was crucial to protect ethnic Assamese, many of whom have demanded removal of outsiders they accuse of taking jobs and cornering resources in the state of 33 million.

The first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), released on Dec. 31, confirmed the citizenship of 19 million people, leading to jubilation for some and heartbreak among others.

The NRC, however, told the Supreme Court this month that 150,000 people from the first list, a third of them married women, would be dropped from the next one, mainly because they provided false information or gave inadmissible documents.

“If the government has decided to brand us foreigners what can we do?” said Abdul Suban, 60, a Bengali-speaking Muslim, earlier.

“The NRC is trying to finish us off. Our people have died here, but we will not leave this place.”


UN team to investigate ‘horrific’ massacre in central Mali

Updated 9 min 50 sec ago
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UN team to investigate ‘horrific’ massacre in central Mali

  • UN human rights office spokeswoman says the massacre in Ogossagou, in Mali’s Mopti region, mostly targeted people from the ethnic Fulani, or Peuhl, community

GENEVA: The United Nations is deploying crime-scene investigators, human rights officers and a child protection expert to central Mali to investigate intercommunal violence over the weekend that killed more than 150 people, one-third of them children.
Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani of the UN human rights office says the massacre in Ogossagou, in Mali’s Mopti region, mostly targeted people from the ethnic Fulani, or Peuhl, community.
She said Tuesday the “horrific attacks” signal a “spike in killings” in a cycle of violence in the region that has caused 600 deaths and displaced thousands since last March.
Shamdasani said the attacks appeared to be motivated by an effort to eliminate violent Islamic extremist groups active in Mali, but that “millions of people are being painted as violent extremists simply because they are Muslim.”